Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Youth Wing leader and businessman, Lesang Magang has this week officially announced his decision to contest for the party’s prestigious position as Secretary General, at the party’s next elective congress billed for July 2021.
Magang told WeekendPost this week after lobbying from democrats and also as a result of his own reflection, he has offered himself to serve in the position.
The former Youth Wing leader said, out of respect, he has also reached out to President Mokgweetsi Masisi, to inform him of his decision.
“He is the party leader. And out of respect and also since we share the philosophy of transforming the country and party, I have sought his audience. I will not go into much detail on this save to say I have massive respect for his desire not to divide the party by engaging in formation of lobbyists though some people had tried to misrepresent him on this score,” Magang told WeekendPost.
“I had served the party really well in my youth and I thought it’s time to come back. All that experience in business and politics is now required by the country and party. We live in critical times whereas the BDP we need to transform to survive. And I am a transformational leader. I would want to be part of leading the transformation of this party alongside a President who has clearly voiced his desire for transformation or party and country.”
Unlike the previous congress where the chairmanship defined the congress, the position as Secretary General will be the most sought after position. Vice President, Slumber Tsogwane is unlikely to be challenged for the Chairman position.
However, Mpho Balopi, who is the incumbent Secretary General has not attracted the same luck, as a number of democrats intends to challenge him for the position.
Magang, who is the son of former cabinet minister, David Magang, indicated that the 2021 congress, the first since 2017, would be critical in the sense that the soul and future of the party may be at stake.
“It will mark a turning point for the party in that the leadership so elected will be responsible for preparing us immediately for the 2024 general election. Before then even, the leadership elected will have to rebuild structures, fix Bulela Ditswe and foster trust and integrity in our primary election and internal systems. In short, we will need to rebuild the confidence of our members in our systems so as to survive 2024 and extend our rule.”
Having served in the party structures before — including the Central Committee during the presidency of Sir Ketumile Masire and Festus Mogae — Magang believes such experience will come handy in helping the party to consolidate its power.
“I know the heart and soul of the party like the back of my hand. I know how we used to do things yet am equipped with how things ought to happen today and for the future,” he said.
“I have seen the party grow, fall and rise again. And all that experience I can use to help President Masisi transform the party to position it for the future as he has rightly pledged to do. For instance, when I speak of building structures it’s something I’ve done before- we’ve crisscrossed the country before being hosted by Democrats to help mobilize and build structures and we made it mad fun.”
Despite not participating in the 2013 and 2018 party primaries after an unsuccessful bid in 2008, Magang contend that he has always been serving the party behind the scenes.
He said it is during this time that he had the luxury of reflecting and also preparing for the next political involvement within the party.
“When I was not leading at the front I was an active follower that assisted in the campaigns of others. For instance, I served in the BDP Communications and International Relations Committee before and was also a manifesto champion for the party in the run up to the 2019 general election,” he argued.
“I would say then that spending time being led and not being on the front leading has shaped my thinking. I have learnt to listen more, I have learnt to follow. And they say the best lessons in leadership include learning to follow.”
ON IMPLEMENTATION OF BDP MANIFESTO
With the party’s victory in the 2019 general election partly on the basis of its pledges in the manifesto, BDP face the tough task of delivering its promises, which include among others reviewing the country’s constitution and Citizen Economic Empowerment (CEE).
“The party must govern. We have a very good system in place where we keep a large professional civil service but the BDP is held accountable every five years. So we need the party to hold government accountable,” he said.
“Through the office of the Secretary General, we need to continuously have the party position being made clear such that our pledges are always top of mind.”
Magang argued that the party should also support government programmes which in essence are party programmes.
“The party must proudly use its structures to promote uptake of government programmes in order for people to benefit. Many of our people could do with benefiting from government programmes,” he said.
“Without being unfair or side-lining the opposition, we must have people in our structures and our members being assisted to enrol in government programmes. Mananeo a puso a tshwanetse a bonelwa mo madomkrageng mme re sa dire botsotsi bope fela, re rotloetsa re bo re rutuntsha botlhe mo pontsheng.”
Magang believes the constitutional review forms key components of BDP’s transformation pledge and said it is necessary for the party to ensure that it happens.
“It is absolutely critical. Our constitution has served as well, but we must review it in order to take the next giant leap for our development and democracy. I am proud that this is a key BDP pledge and one we intend to make happen.”
REBUILDING THE PARTY
BDP suffered two splits in the last 10 years, a development which has seen the party losing its status as invincible, and many observers believes the party could soon go past its glory days.
“The BDP of our forefathers was more than just a political party. It was an organization of people who were friends from all over our country, people who missed getting together again in song and conferences. It was as much a party as it was a brotherhood/sisterhood in which everyone felt they were welcome and had a place,” he said.
“This mentality penetrated even to our party structures. Structures existed and were strong because there was fellowship, and they were also adequately monitored and engaged. The structures held their own activities regularly. In so many places, our structures ran activities that became entertainment platforms for people to look forward to. We need to urgently get back to building structures that are not only visible before congress or primary elections.
“This way, we will not easily split. The spirit of being democrats would prevail and we all would also know that one needs not have power at all costs.
“We have problems because sometimes people feel the need to win at all costs that they resort to even cheating to win- and some have previously even been facilitated by leadership to cheat. Bulela ditswe is a prime example. This cannot be fair and only leads to infighting.”
Government is currently sitting on 4 400 vacant posts that remain unfilled in the civil service. This is notwithstanding the high unemployment rate in Botswana which has been exacerbated by the recent outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Just before the burst of COVID-19, official data released by Statistics Botswana in January 2020, indicate that unemployment in Botswana has increased from 17.6 percent three years ago to 20.7 percent. “Unemployment rate went up by 3.1 percentage between the two periods, from 17.6 to 20.7 percent,” statistics point out.
Leading commercial bank, First National Bank Botswana (FNBB), expects the central bank to sharpen its monetary policy knife and cut the Bank Rate twice in the last quarter of 2020.
The bank expects a 25 basis point (bps) in the beginning of the last quarter, which is next month, and another shed by the same bps in December, making a total of 50 bps cut in the last quarter. According to the bank’s researchers, the central bank is now holding on to 4.25 percent for the time being pending for more informed data on the economic climate.
An audit of the accounts and records for the supply of food rations to the institutions in the Northern Region for the financial year-ended 31 March 2019 was carried out. According to Auditor General’s report and observations, there are weaknesses and shortcomings that were somehow addressed to the Accounting Officer for comments.
Auditor General, Pulane Letebele indicated on the report that, across all depots in the region that there had been instances where food items were short for periods ranging from 1 to 7 months in the institutions for a variety of reasons, including absence of regular contracts and supplier failures. The success of this programme is dependent on regular and reliable availability of the supplies to achieve its objective, the report said.
There would be instances where food items were returned from the feeding centers to the depots for reasons of spoilage or any other cause. In these cases, instances had been noted where these returns were not supported by any documentation, which could lead to these items being lost without trace.
The report further stressed that large quantities of various food items valued at over P772 thousand from different depots were damaged by rodents, and written off.Included in the write off were 13 538 (340ml) cartons of milk valued at P75 745. In this connection, the Auditor General says it is important that the warehouses be maintained to a standard where they would not be infested by rodents and other pests.
Still in the Northern region, the report noted that there is an outstanding matter relating to the supply of stewed steak (283×3.1kg cans) to the Maun depot which was allegedly defective. The steak had been supplied by Botswana Meat Commission to the depot in November 2016.
In March 2017 part of the consignment was reported to the supplier as defective, and was to be replaced. Even as there was no agreement reached between the parties regarding replacement, in 51 October 2018 the items in question were disposed of by destruction. This disposal represented a loss as the whole consignment had been paid for, according to the report.
“In my view, the loss resulted directly from failure by the depot managers to deal with the matter immediately upon receipt of the consignment and detection of the defects. Audit inspections during visits to Selibe Phikwe, Maun, Shakawe, Ghanzi and Francistown depots had raised a number of observations on points of detail related to the maintenance of records, reconciliations of stocks and related matters, which I drew to the attention of the Accounting Officer for comments,” Letebele said in her report.
In the Southern region, a scrutiny of the records for the control of stocks of food items in the Southern Region had indicated intermittent shortages of the various items, principally Tsabana, Malutu, Sunflower Oil and Milk which was mainly due to absence of subsisting contracts for the supply of these items.
“The contract for the supply of Tsabana to all depots expired in September 2018 and was not replaced by a substantive contract. The supplier contracts for these stocks should be so managed that the expiry of one contract is immediately followed by the commencement of the next.”
Suppliers who had been contracted to supply foodstuffs had failed to do so and no timely action had been taken to redress the situation to ensure continuity of supply of the food items, the report noted.
In one case, the report highlighted that the supplier was to manufacture and supply 1 136 metric tonnes of Malutu for a 4-months period from March 2019 to June 2019, but had been unable to honour the obligation. The situation was relieved by inter-depot transfers, at additional cost in transportation and subsistence expenses.
In another case, the contract was for the supply of Sunflower Oil to Mabutsane, where the supplier had also failed to deliver. Examination of the Molepolole depot Food Issues Register had indicated a number of instances where food items consigned to the various feeding centres had been returned for a variety of reasons, including food item available; no storage space; and in other cases the whole consignments were returned, and reasons not stated.
This is an indication of lack of proper management and monitoring of the affairs of the depot, which could result in losses from frequent movements of the food items concerned.The maintenance of accounting records in the region, typically in Letlhakeng, Tsabong, and Mabutsane was less than satisfactory, according to Auditor General’s report.
In these depots a number of instances had been noted where receipts and issues had not been recorded over long periods, resulting in incorrect balances reflected in the accounting records. This is a serious weakness which could lead to or result in losses without trace or detection, and is a contravention of Supplies Regulations and Procedures, Letebele said.
Similarly, consignments of a total of 892 bags of Malutu and 3 bags of beans from Tsabong depot to different feeding centres had not been received in those centres, and are considered lost. These are also not reflected in the Statement of Losses in the Annual Statements of Accounts for the same periods.